UW study: Turning hotels into emergency shelters for homeless slowed spread of COVID-19

Washington state operating budget proposal may cut homeless funding

SEATTLE, Wash. — An initiative that moved homeless people in Washington state out of homeless shelters and into hotel rooms helped slow the spread of COVID-19, according to early findings from a study out of University of Washington and the King County Department of Community and Human Services.

Along with helping to keep the virus under control, those who moved to hotels reported improved physical and mental health. They also reported an increased ability to focus on long-term goals.

When the first cases of coronavirus – and information on the virus – starting to emerge in the beginning of 2020, Seattle and King County leaders looked for ways to keep homeless people safe and healthy. Starting in April, the county leased hotel rooms in cities around the county. Since that time, the rooms have served as temporary shelter for more than 800 people.

Researchers found fewer clusters and outbreaks of COVID-19 among individuals who stayed in hotels than among those who remained in traditional, large-group shelter settings. King County is now evaluating how to continue and expand the program not just during the pandemic, but potentially beyond. The county has currently extended the hotel leases through January 2021.

To read more about the study, click here.